S & I have birthdays on consecutive days, which makes it feel valid to make a special deal every year. Alas birthdays in October mean the weather could do just about anything.
This year we bagged a bargain for 3 nights at Eskdale YHA for £39. No matter what the weather, that price meant it could never be wasted money. And as the trip got closer, the forecast showed ever increasing rain and winds. I had hoped to do a hilly perm 100k audax on the trip, but with the forecast of gales and much dark skies, I decided to forgo that plan and save the audax for better weather next spring. So the off-road bikes got packed into the car and we ventured up the M6.
People always say that no matter what the weather, The Lake District is always lovely. We would certainly be finding out whether that rings true on our three night stop.
Monday morning, brought cards & pressies for me and after a leisurely start to the day, we set off on the plotted route that would take us on bridleways down one side of the valley of Eskdale & back on the other.
We climbed sharply up Eskdale Fell, into the damp clouds where the rocky bridleway quickly vanished into boggy moorland. My gps said we were on track, but there was no sign of any bridleway. The tussocky grasses meant there was a fair amount of bike-hiking as we headed in the direction of Miterdale Forest. It wasnt long before we were both begraggled!.
A fun flit around Miterdale Forest tracks showed views of the coast before a fast descent to the road, where we pedalled to pick up the bridleway that runs alongside the narrow- guage steam Ravenglass & Eskdale railway. We couldnt have timed this stretch better - onto a winter schedule meant there werent many trains running, but we heard a toot and a little green train tootled past - everyone waving at us.
Although this was the flattest part of the ride, the overgrowth & the mud made it the hardest cycling of the day. As we neared the end of the railway, the rains increased. We went for a pint in the Ratty Arms and watched the heavens open and the puddles on the platform shudder from the raindrops.
The pub was closing for the afternoon, so we left to return to our now soggy saddles. We took part of Route 72 (Hadrian's Cycleway) through Muncaster to avoid a stretch of a-road, which we joined a little higher up. A fast descent hitting 35mph, we had to brake as the rain pelting our eyes made it impossible to see anything. Thankfully this was a short stretch of road and we were on the bridleway around Muncaster head & the golf course in no time.
This joined the main Eskdale bridleway which took us back to Dalegarth and the road back to Boot.
Our original plan had to head up onto the tops, but since the rains arrived bringing early darkness, we amended the route.
A fun, challenging 20 miles. I'll definitely be doing this route again!
A gpx of the route can be downloaded here www.gpsvisualizer.com/download/convert/1383508654-01864-18.104.22.168.gpx